I’m writing this while it’s still very fresh.
Because I feel like I need to process it all.
Earlier this week I was engaged in a heated discussion in the comments section of a fellow blogger and fellow mom of food allergic kids about how Israel doesn’t take food allergies seriously.
Earlier this morning, I blogged about how frustrated I feel with the Israel medical care system.
And then, like a freak thunderstorm that knocks down the tree that just misses your house, the Universe decided it wanted to tell me something.
I think. Or else it’s all a very very strange coincidence.
Around lunch time, I got a call from my husband. He was on his way home with the boys from school. The 9 year old had just thrown up all over the car. My husband then told me that my son had eaten a candy at school and started feeling sick after. He was afraid it had nuts in it.
But he wasn’t sure. My son hadn’t read the ingredients.
Our smart son; our careful son; the one who has had now 7 years of experience living with food allergies… he slipped up.
Of course, one can understand. It was a sucking candy. Not a chocolate bar. Not a cake or a cookie or a brownie. An orange-flavored hard candy. At least that’s what it looked like and even tasted like to him.
In all our years of reading ingredients, we have never once ever come upon a hard sucking candy with nuts in it (save for coconut oil, which he is not allergic to.)
I think he got complacent. And, like any 9 year old boy, careless.
Maybe we got complacent. We stopped nudging him.
Either way, today, after years of wondering what it would be like to look anaphylaxis in the face, I did. Smack dab.
This wasn’t my son’s first allergic reaction. He’s had three reactions in the past — one last Spring even to a new food he wasn’t allergic to in the past — but all have been treated successfully with Benadryl, an antihistamine. It’s the first course of treatment according to our allergists, unless his lips swell or he can’t breathe.
Today, his lips weren’t swollen and he could still breathe, but yet, he was not right. I could tell. Kinda. But not for certain.
As soon as he got home, I could see he was pale. He also couldn’t breathe from his nose. And while he could still breathe from his mouth, his throat hurt and his voice sounded like he had something stuck in there.
I wasn’t quite sure he “needed” the epipen. But I held on to it as I evaluated him. I looked in his throat. It looked swollen.
I had just given myself the epipen a few months before for what I had thought was allergy but turned out to be food poisoning. At the time, I told myself, “It was good you did. Now you know it doesn’t really hurt. Now you will really give it to the kids if they need it and not worry about it hurting.” (Ask any parent of kids with food allergies and most will tell you they worry about having to give the epipen to their kid. “I don’t want to give him the shot. It will hurt.”)
I looked at my son and asked, “Do you feel I should give you the epipen?”
He was scared. He hesitated. He didn’t say, No. But he couldn’t say, Yes.
I said yes for him.
I reminded him that it wouldn’t hurt. It would help.
He was brave. Very brave, as I stuck the epipen in his thigh.
Thank goodness, I did. Later, after we took him to the doctor; after the doctor checked his vitals; after he gave him steroids as a follow up treatment; he told us, we did the right thing.
And it was only after that, my husband pulled out one of the wrapped candies the teacher had given us to show us what he ate. Another child had handed them out during recess when the teacher wasn’t there.
The candy said Praline on the wrapper.
Pralines are not nuts, themselves. They are a nut-flavored candy or cookie. It wasn’t part of our vocabulary … the one we’ve always used when training him on what to do around food. My son didn’t know what a praline was. Because it’s a nut candy, he’s never eaten it. Also, it’s not something children generally eat in anywhere in America I’ve ever been (except Georgia, now that I think about it). My son has never seen anything like that.
Of course, if he had read the ingredients written in teeny tiny crumpled up type on the wrapper, he would have seen the word “peanut.” We did.
I can’t be angry at my son. I am too thankful right now he is alive.
I am thankful he trusted his body and got help right away.
I’m thankful that his teacher called us immediately as soon as she heard he had eaten the candy.
I’m thankful my husband happened to be nearby with the car and could get him from school.
I’m thankful I had the courage to give him the epipen even though I wasn’t sure he “needed” it.
I’m thankful there was a clinic open to see my child (even though the first two ones we called were closed and no one available to answer the phones).
I’m thankful we had friends around to help us with our other kids.
I’m thankful traffic on the one lane road to the clinic wasn’t extraordinarily slow as it often can be.
I’m thankful the doctor on call at the clinic happened to be our pediatrician, who knew us, and who we felt comfortable with.
I’m happy he took us seriously. I’m happy the nurse and the receptionist at the clinic also took us very seriously. I’m happy the teacher (who called us later to check on him and express her concern) and the children in my son’s class all took it seriously.
Of course, I am most thankful he is sitting next to me right now bugging me to get off the computer and get him a popsicle.
He is ok.
He is ok.
And, perhaps, there are Israelis who take food allergies seriously.
After today, I imagine some of them will likely take them more seriously than they did before.
I’m not suggesting the turn of events was all the work of something supernatural or magical. Or that someone or something was really trying to send me a message.
(They do take it seriously.)
(He is in safe hands.)
(You will know what to do.)
(He will be okay.)
But, one way or another?
13 thoughts on “Peanut-flavored twist of fate, or a miracle?”
I’m glad he is okay. There is a boy in my daughter’s first grade class with an anaphylactic allergy to milk. He has an assistant with him in school every day.
Is it my misconception that allergies are just not as common here as they are in the USA? That’s just my impression as a nurse who worked in a sleepaway camp in the usa and having lived here over 20 years.
Susie: It’s not just you. There have been studies done that show less incidence of food allergy among israeli kids than of American kids. But from what
I’ve read I’m not sure how thorough the studies were really. Personally, I think food allergy goes under-diagnosed and under-treated here. I know some parents who have been told by their pediatricians here to “just avoid the food” and don’t send them off for blood work, don’t send them to an allergist, don’t give them an epipen. Personally, I think better to educate parents and better to equip them with what they need in case of an emergency rather than risk them being uninformed and unequipped. That said, a lot of my own knowledge is from 7 years of Google and 7 years of being on message boards and in support groups — not from doctors.
I’m so sorry you and he went through this, Jen. Well said, beautifully written- I really felt your anxiety when reading this piece.
Thank God he’s OK. Can’t wait to hug him later.
How scary, Jen…thank God you were prepared. It’s so important for you to keep reminding all of us of the importance of educating Israelis about food allergies and to not let people get away with the “yiheyeh b’seder” attitude.
Wow. So they don’t keep an epipen for him at school?
So scary. I had to give Evelyn the epi in April, and it was the scariest day of my life. Glad to hear everyone is okay. Love you!
T keeps it on himself in a little fanny pack always. O has his in his teachers closet. So yes they do and their dad went in last year to train the teachers in how to use it
Nice job giving him the EpiPen. I’ve given my son the EpiPen too, just a few months ago. I was scared to do it, the first time, but I don’t think I will be anymore. Does your son carry one with him? Mine’s only two, so I carry two for him on a fanny pack. I also have a smaller pack that i clip to my belt, and that has two more. That way, I always have them on hand.
Oh, yes, I see that he does in your comment!
Thanks for your comments josh. It’s been a huge transition for us going from a nut free preschool to a nut-filled elementary school in NJ (but with a very educated and compassionate school nurse!) to a nut-loving society in Israel (and no school nurse!) Plus, as my sons get older and require/desire more freedom and independence; it’s been a real challenges for us (his parents) to learn how to let go and trust his judgment, and perhaps trust that he’s safe and watched over by forces beyond our understanding.
Beautiful post, Jen.